Time to End the ‘Meet and Confer’ Shakedown

by Nick Dranias

Government unions claim “meet and confer” collective bargaining only promotes innocent brainstorming between government employees and employers about work conditions. But in reality, as with any other collective bargaining law, meet and confer laws legalize a shakedown of the taxpayer.

Government Union InfographicLike a “discussion” conducted under the threat of a business “accident,” meet and confer laws ensure collective bargaining in Arizona is conducted under the very real threat of costly litigation. Such laws empower government unions to sue government employers for failing to negotiate in “good faith” whenever the employer refuses to yield to union demands. And government unions routinely sue government employers to meet their negotiating demands.

As a result, it should be no wonder that meet and confer collective bargaining costs Arizona taxpayers $550 million per year in outsized wages and unsustainable benefits. The legal compulsion leveraged by government unions is not offset by the fact that elected officials ultimately must approve the deal that is struck.

As the Arizona Republic reports, neither elected officials nor the media are able to monitor collective bargaining, which is typically kept secret by meet and confer laws. Elected officials rarely read or understand the hundreds of pages of labor agreements they must approve every year. And willful ignorance is encouraged by the fact government unions do not hesitate to threaten the political careers of elected officials unless they approve those agreements.

In the final analysis, meet and confer laws encourage government unions to apply legal and political force to control both sides of the bargaining table. This inevitably skews any negotiation over wages, benefits and work conditions to their advantage and to the detriment of the taxpayer—as evidenced by the outrageous phenomena of “release time,” in which union officials are put on the government payroll but work exclusively for the union.

Even if release time is banned or struck down, leaving the power of a legalized shakedown in the hands of government unions will only allow new abuses to take its place. Only a structural reform in the way government does business with unions can prevent such future abuses. For this reason, SB 1485’s total ban on government sector collective bargaining remains absolutely essential to protecting Arizona taxpayers from being fleeced by government unions.

Nick Dranias holds the Clarence J. and Katherine P. Duncan Chair for Constitutional Government and is director of the Joseph and Dorothy Donnelly Moller Center for Constitutional Government at the Goldwater Institute.

Learn more:

Goldwater Institute: Save Taxpayers Tens of Billions of Dollars

Arizona State Legislature: SB 1485

Arizona Republic: Surprise drops curtain on police, fire union negotiations

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